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The Focal Celestee on a headphone stand.

Focal Celestee review

A pleasure to look at, but does the sound match up?
By
September 22, 2022
7.7
Focal Celestee
The bottom line
If you have $1,000 USD to spend, and are looking for closed-back headphones, the Focal Celestee is worthy of consideration. These headphones follow up their striking design with decent sound and solid build quality. If you have the right-sized head, you'll never want to take these headphones off.

Focal Celestee

If you have $1,000 USD to spend, and are looking for closed-back headphones, the Focal Celestee is worthy of consideration. These headphones follow up their striking design with decent sound and solid build quality. If you have the right-sized head, you'll never want to take these headphones off.
Release date

December 18, 2020

Price

$999 USD

Dimensions

316 x 305 x 191 mm

Weight

430g

Model Number

FCELESTEE

Waterproof

No

What we like
Great passive isolation
Gorgeous build and design
Handy carrying case
What we don't like
Heavy
Deviation from our target curve in bass frequencies
Strong clamping force could be uncomfortable for larger heads
Only one fairly short cable is provided.
7.7
SoundGuys Rating
7.7
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
9.6
7.4
7.0
Bass
9.5
9.0
9.0
Midrange
9.8
9.0
9.0
Highs
9.6
9.0
9.0
Isolation / Attenuation
5.8
6.0
6.0
Durability / Build Quality
6.9
9.0
9.0
Value
6.8
8.0
8.0
Design
8.5
10.0
10.0
Connectivity
6.5
5.0
5.0
Portability
5.0
3.0
3.0
Feature
6.5
-
0.0
Comfort
8.0
9.5
10.0

Got a thousand dollars to spend and looking for closed-back headphones? You’ve come to the right place. There are many reasons to justify expensive headphones are worth it, but we won’t fault you if you look away now. There’s a lot to love about the Focal Celestee, if you can look past the $999 USD price tag. We spent a week with the Focal Celestee to learn everything you need to know before making this large investment.

Audiophiles with deep pockets will appreciate the gorgeous design of the Focal Celestee that allows for listening in a wide variety of environments. This could also be a worthy closed-back pair of headphones for content creators to test out tracks alongside their open-back headphones and monitor speakers.

What is it like to use the Focal Celestee?

Close-up of the Focal Celestee ear cushion and driver
The leather ear pads are soft and conform well to the head.

Unlike Focal’s open-back headsets (which are even more expensive), the Focal Celestee has a closed-back, over-ear design. It’s immediately apparent that these headphones are nothing short of luxurious. Design is subjective, but I find the navy blue leather with copper accents simply stunning. Material choice is top notch and every component of the Celestee feeling sturdy. Unfortunately, the weight of these premium materials creates a hot spot at the crown of my head. It takes about two hours for any discomfort to set in though.

Soft leather encompasses the headband and wraps the ear pads, which helps them conform to the wearer’s ears. If you look close enough, you’ll see a ring of mesh on the inner circle of the pads to allow airflow. Combining the memory with the headphones’ strong clamping force provides a good fit. A strong seal around your ears prevents noise from leaking in, or your audio from leaking out. While that means the headphones passively block out ambient noise, you probably shouldn’t buy these hefty jewels for your everyday commute. Plus, those with above-average-sized heads may experience more discomfort than I.

The Focal Celestee carrying case sitting atop a wood table.
The carrying case looks more like a luxury handbag than something you’d carry audio equipment in.

The headphones don’t rotate or fold up as they do on the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort 45, but the zippered carrying case makes these cans somewhat portable. You must detach the cable from the headset to place it in the carrying case, and the whole package takes up quite a bit of space in a bag. Even with its bulky build, bringing these Focal headphones along is still fairly easy when traveling.

How do you connect the Focal Celestee?

The Focal Celestee cables connected to the headphones.
The included cables are detachable, using mini jack connectors.

The Focal Celestee uses one 3.5mm TS jack on each side to attach the Y cable, which terminates in a 3.5mm TRS jack. The included cable is only 1.2 meters (4ft) long, which can be a bit limiting depending on your audio setup. Instead, this cabling seems more appropriate for plugging the Celestee into a portable device like a phone. If you go the mobile route, be aware that there’s no in-line mic for phone calls.

Reinforcements at each termination help prevent breakage, and the outer sheath is sturdy enough to limit tangling. Focal also includes a 1/8- to 1/4-inch adapter in the package. It will work directly with any phone (with an analog output dongle if needed), laptop, or music player, any of which should be able to get the Celestee to acceptable volume levels.

The Focal Celestee has a 35Ω impedance, so you can easily power the headphones without an external headphone amp.

How well does the Focal Celestee block out noise?

A chart showing the Focal Celestee isolating frequencies above 100Hz by up to 40dB
The Focal Celestee effectively isolates the listener from frequencies above 100Hz.

Unlike audiophile equipment meant for quiet, acoustically treated rooms, the Celestee’s effective passive isolation means the headset performs well in most environments. The clamping force and thick ear pads reduce most environmental noise from one-half to nearly one-sixteenth its original perceived loudness. These headphones are great for tuning out office chatter or noisy kids at home. On the other hand, if you plan on listening in a quiet, isolated, environment, you might also want to consider open-back headphones such as the Focal Clear.

How does the Focal Celestee sound?

Editor’s note: this review uses a hover-enabled glossary, based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.

A frequency response chart for the Focal Celestee which reveals a boosted bass response.
The Focal Celestee’s frequency response has a few areas of unevenness, most notably at around 100Hz.

The Focal Celestee provides a listening experience that works better for some genres than others. The overall tonality of the headphone leans “darker,” but not excessively so. The Celestee has a tailored response that follows the basic gist of our in-house preference curve, with some notable deviations. There’s a boost of low frequencies from 70-130Hz, bringing out the fundamentals of bass notes. Above that, here’s a little under-emphasis in the 200-400Hz region relative to our ideal frequency response, and some surprising unevenness in the higher register between 4-10kHz. While it’s fairly enjoyable to listen to, we wouldn’t recommend it as your only reference for professional audio work.

Lows, mids, and highs

The Focal Celestee headphones resting on top of a mixer.
The Focal Celestee is a joy to use in the studio; just make sure it isn’t the only pair of headphones you’re referencing.

A boost in the response around 100Hz is immediately apparent when auditioning the song Dreams (2004 remaster) by Fleetwood Mac. This boost lends some extra bass strength to the droning bass guitar part that underpins the song, though it does border on “boominess.” The bass shaping adds some unnecessary weight to the kick drum and toms, which is apparent during drum fills. The headphones reproduce the attack of those transients quite well, however. The hi-hat off to the right draws negative attention to itself, which seems to tie in with the 8kHz peak in the frequency response. Stevie Nicks’ vocals don’t quite stand out from the instrumentation like I’m used to hearing, meaning the presentation doesn’t match my expectations.

The song Ooh La La by Goldfrapp is an example of a song that sounds particularly good on the Celestee. The synthesized bass parts work well without sounding overbearing. The mix creates a great sense of envelopment, and as it gets dense, each component continues to occupy its area of the sonic landscape with good spatial clarity. All the while, Alison’s breathy vocal remains clear, front and center.

Should you buy the Focal Celestee?

The Focal Celestee on a headphone stand in front of an illuminated red office background.
The Focal Celestee looks stunning.

The Focal Celestee is probably not worth a thousand dollars, but it’s still a pleasure to use. There are diminishing marginal returns to high-end audio equipment—performance gains are slim compared to some of the best headphones that cost less than half as much. Still, for the right person with deep enough pockets, that marginal improvement may be worth it.

Minor grievances such as the hefty clamping force and slight frequency deviations from our target curve will justifiably prevent some listeners from selecting the Celestee over the competition. You should settle for nothing short of your exact preferences at this price. However, most who get to try out the Focal Celestee headphones should find them enjoyable, while the rest of us will be wishing we had a spare grand lying around.

The Focal Celestee audiophile headphones against a white background.
Focal Celestee
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

What are some alternatives to the Focal Celestee?

Around the neck of a red guitar the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X is slung over, showing the ear cups.
With a more muted design, the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X achieves arguably better performance at a much lower price.

You don’t have to spend upwards of a thousand dollars to get great headphones. If you’re looking for closed-back headphones to take with you on the go, the Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X is a great alternative to the Focal Celestee. It’s a durable and comfortable set of headphones with replaceable parts, and costs less than one-third the price of the Focal Celestee.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to fall deep into the rabbit role, there are other great (expensive) audiophile headphones out there. The Sennheiser HD 820 has long sat atop our list of the best studio headphones as the crown jewel of Sennheiser’s offerings. Additionally, the Focal Utopia might have the most dashing review we’ve ever given a headset on our website, though the Utopia is a set of open-back headphones that runs upwards of $4,000 USD.

Frequently asked questions about the Focal Celestee

No, because we know burn-in is a myth, we can only determine that any improved performance with use refers to the headset stretching and molding over time to fit your anatomy better leading to better performance through fit.